In the second part of an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque touched on a further range of issues including how he deals with media criticism, his decision-making doubts and their bid to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Check out the first part of this unmissable interview by clicking on the link on the right-hand side.
FIFA.com: Vicente, you’ve had so much success in recent years, but have you had any doubts along the way?
Vicente Del Bosque: Of course, in football you question things even when you win, right? In the last EURO we played virtually from the off without an orthodox centre-forward. We preferred to use a player who’d drop deep to link up and would play a part in creating attacks, but who could get in the box too. At the time we had our moments of uncertainty too. It’s not easy. I don’t think anyone should be certain that everything they do is right. I question a lot of things.
After winning so many titles, how do you take any criticism that comes your way? At EURO 2012, for example, you were criticised for that strikerless tactical set-up.
I listen to the criticism and I value it. You can’t turn a deaf ear to what people say and in some cases, of course they’re right. The thing is, we’ve got a bit of an advantage now because we all know how that situation turned out. The day we played against Italy [in the opening group game], we had come up with that solution because of [Andrea] Pirlo. Perhaps it didn’t go all that well for us that day (in a 1-1 draw), but we improved as the tournament went on. In fact, when we played Italy again in the final (Spain won 4-0), we sent out the same starting XI as that first game.
The most important thing is that we believe in what we’re doing, and that the players are patient enough to break down any defensive system. We can’t go thinking we need to win every game in the first ten minutes.
You have stated in the past that you wouldn’t work on the club scene again after coaching La Selección. Do you still feel that way?
I said that for age reasons. I’m 61 now and I’ve got little more than a year here before my work with the national team comes to an end. It’d be very difficult [to take on a club role], as I honestly don’t see myself still coaching at 70 (laughs). That’s why I’ll most likely call it a day after this.
How different is coaching a club side and a national team? In some ways, they seem to be almost two different professions, don’t they?
We’ve played 16 games this year and, when you compare that to the 50-odd matches that clubs play, it’s a pretty conclusive piece of data. At club level you have day-to-day contact that enables you to gradually improve certain areas of your team. At international level you get less time to work. At a club you get to work with the players more, but there could also be more conflict. Here with the national team that’s less likely. You might get the odd disappointed face because someone didn’t get a game or someone else might lose their temper, but you don’t get that daily interaction that makes your life really difficult. Those are the biggest differences.
What’s the first thing you say to a new player coming into a squad as successful as Spain’s?
During the first conversation, the first meeting that I have with them as a matter of course, I always tell the new player to try and feel at home. I tell him that he’ll have plenty of support, he won’t have any problems and that he’ll fit in straightaway. It’s just a formality, because I know the squad regulars will treat the new guy like he’s been involved for ages. In fact, all the players that come in say that very thing. We don’t have major problems in that area.
During that first chat, can you tell if a player’s ready to handle the pressure of pulling on the Spain jersey?
Yes, I think that they all are. They’re not kids anymore. They’re young lads but they’ve cut their teeth in the game. What’s more, we’ve not had any lads who’ve come into the squad and got nervous. And the very youngest players, they’re good because they’ve got confidence and daring. If they were shy and retiring they’d find it very hard. They’re mature for their age.
It’s quite striking how some players, such as Jordi Alba, have settled so quickly and seamlessly into the side…
That happens with certain players because they quickly accept what their role is. It’s the best thing such a young lad can do. It’s about showing respect to the most experienced guys, showing the humility and behaviour that earn them the appreciation of the other players. And that’s how we go about seeing that we can start using them at any given time. They earn their shot; all we do is call them up. The case of Jordi Alba is a good example: we have to be ready when players like this emerge. With him the chance came in the fullback position, where [Joan] Capdevila had performed extraordinarily well for us. We put our faith in Jordi and he responded fantastically.
Turning to Brazil 2014 qualifying, where Spain are involved in the smallest group in the European Zone – a section also including France. Could you imagine a FIFA World Cup without the holders?
Those are the rules and we have to accept them. We’ve won two games and drawn one, which means there are still 15 points left to play for. It’s true we have to play France away, but there are also other teams that could make both teams drop points along the way. There are sides that made us really suffer, such as Georgia, who we needed a late goal to beat. It’s a qualification group that’s not been settled yet.
Is it harder now taking on those teams that aren’t considered established forces?
Of course, it’s getting harder all the time. All our opponents know us very well and already know exactly how we play. The most important thing is that we believe in what we’re doing, and that the players are patient enough to break down any defensive system. We can’t go thinking we need to win every game in the first ten minutes.